This scene, from the cinematic classic known as Airplane!, is one of my favorites in cinematic history - it's "Who's on First?" style wordplay is both clever and always worthy of a chuckle. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this entire movie is the absolute pinnacle of the parody movie genre, producing more quotable quips in one installment ("I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue," "Stewardess- I speak jive," "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley" etc.) than most movie trilogies. It's a film that, though it's now approaching 40 years old, remains as fresh and funny as it did in 1980 and, when it's on, I will never, ever pass it up.
Similarly, I will never, ever miss out on a trip to local, monthly card show when I'm otherwise free.
I've been going to this relatively small show, in neighboring Orland Park, IL, for a couple of years now and I always manage to walk away with something fun. With that in mind and the price of admission costing only a crinkly Washington, I can think of a lot worse ways to spend a Sunday morning. Clearly, I wasn't the only person who felt this way either, as the rented out space in the OP Civic Center was as packed as I've ever seen it. I should have snapped a picture, but I was far too busy jostling for space in the crowded hall to even think about it.
Nevertheless, I was able to make my around to (most of) the tables and, though it was certainly not a high volume day for me, I made a couple of supremely welcome finds:
First up, from a vendor who clearly considers himself a prospector, I was able to grab a pair of recent Bowmans featuring some Cubs pre-rookies - these are to be filed away for future consideration, in case they should eventually crack the Bigs. Dylan Cease is the franchise's top pitching prospect and is definitely on an MLB trajectory; but, he's still in A-ball and you know how volatile young pitching can be. Meanwhile, Stephen Bruno is nowhere near as highly regarded as Cease; however, the middle infielder is currently rostered with AAA-Iowa, meaning he's only a call away from the Majors.
I may have only been a Boy Scout for a few months, but I've always hung on to their motto: "be prepared." Just like every airplane is equipped with automatic pilot, just in case:
I'm pretty sure that's just exactly how it works too.
From that same table, I was also able to grab a "Cubgrade" for my trouble. Though he was still just a prospect when this 2015 Bowman Chrome single was printed, Victor Caratini is now a certified Major Leaguer, having stepped into the backup catcher's role that was vacated by "Mouthy Miguel" Montero.
I had been prepared for the May and June Cubs Minor League Player of the Month's arrival in on the Big League scene; although, it was with an unlicensed Panini Elite Extra Edition card from 2013, back before he'd been traded from the Braves' system to the Cubs'. Now, he can be properly represented with the correct team in my massive CATRC binder, with his first (and, to date, only) card in a Cubs uniform.
The right uniform makes all the difference!
Those finds were nice and all, but nothing earth shattering and nothing that a trip to one of my LCS locations couldn't procure. For while, I thought that was all I would be walking away with too, as every table seemed to be completely devoid of what I was after - affordable vintage and oddballs. New additions to my CATRC almost exclusively come through those two avenues, at this point in my progress. Thankfully, it was one of the first tables set up in the hall, yet one of last tables that I checked in at (darned crowds), that saved the day with their clearance sale.
There was a big, ol' 3200-ct box filled with vintage markdowns - I don't mean just 70's stuff either, this box contained stuff that dated back to the immediate post-war years.
We have clearance, Clarence!
What we have here is a 1949 Bowman beauty featuring Cubs outfielder, Clarence Maddern. Outside of a little wear in the bottom right and slightly rounded corners, this card is in pretty darn good shape for approaching 70 years of age. This has been a card sitting on my want-list for a loooooong time, as it's the only mainstream baseball card featuring the spare-part, short-term fly-chaser from the late 1940's; thus, it was a hard need for my CATRC binder.
Clarence Maddern quit the University of Arizona (and abandoned his scholarship) to join the nearby, Cubs affiliated Bisbee Bees of the Arizona-Texas League (Class C) in 1940. As he quickly advanced up the minor league chain, getting so far as the old PCL by the age of 20, Clarence put his baseball career on hold to answer the call of Uncle Sam. From 1943-45, Maddern served in France with the US Army and participated in the Battle of the Bulge.
Once the war was over, the still-young athlete returned the PCL with the Los Angeles Angels and promptly lead the league in batting through September, earning his first call-up. For the next several seasons, Clarence would bounce up and down between the MLB and PCL, never firmly establishing himself at the game's highest level, but solidifying himself as a PCL favorite. In 1951, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he saw 11 further games of MLB service before finishing out his pro career, which extended to 1957, in the PCL.
In case you're curious, the year in which this card was printed was Clarence's last in a Cubs uniform and he made it into just 10 games, batting .333 with one walk and a homer in 11 PA's.
Why this awesome card was marked down to a price below a blaster was beyond me. I had so many questions:
Finding a card that I need for such a long time at an abbreviated price was enough to make me content with the day's haul. That said, I wasn't about to walk away from this unique opportunity to add super vintage cardboard to my collection at a fraction of the normal price until I searched through the whole box. I'm glad I was so stubborn too because soon after digging up the Maddern, I came across a mark down that I thought had to be an error.
It also just so happened to be another 1949 Bowman too:
Of course, this card is in nowhere near as nice a condition as it's set-mate - that's a hefty water stain and the surface has seen some better days. Nevertheless, cards of this caliber rarely approach my price range, even in this state. That's why, despite it's imperfections, I was so stupefied to read that it would cost me one, measly buck...
One dollar for a 68 year old, super vintage card, from an iconic set which features the hometown team? This is a trick, right? Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger cards from 2017 are selling in the double digits and THIS Emil Verban card can be mine for the same price as a pack of Opening Day?
For once it was a deal that was not too good to be true. The best part was that it was also a card that I needed for my CATRC, as well. Verban (who possesses one of the best baseball nicknames ever ("The Antelope"), was already represented in said binder, but it was with a Cardinals card:
At least I think it' a Cards card - this Exhibit card dates from sometime in the mid-to-late 40's and definitely shows "The Antelope" in a uniform other than the Cubbies. Again, it's "Cubgrade" time!
Verban was mostly a utility infielder and his career was quickly forgotten after he retired after the 1950. However, he remains a significant name in Cubs lore. In 1975, a group of Washington big-wigs, whose hearts belonged to Chicago, were plotting something. They started a "secret" society of Cubs fans in our nation's capital as an outlet for their shared misery. It was decided that the name for their society must symbolize the typical Cubs player; an obscure name who's passion exceeded his talents, but came to the ballpark ready to give 110% day in and day out. Thus. the Emil Verban Society was born and continues to exist today.
Random as that connection might seem, this surely this isn't the first time a pro athlete has turned up somewhere unexpected:
That dollar Verban made for the perfect exclamation point on already satisfactory day. Two prospect cards for future considerations, two "Cubgrades," two super vintage finds on super clearance that fit needs in my CATRC... can't ask for much more from a singular card show! It was definitely worth braving the crowd.
Plus, I got to bang out a post using a bunch of clips from what might be my favorite comedic film of all-time as the framework... all this because of a clearance Clarence!
Okay - I gotta wrap this up and get out of here, I simply have to go watch Airplane!, right now, as I file away my card show findings.
Card show and comedic gold, all rolled into one.